Saddleworth is a town, was the name of a district council until 1970 and is part of the Saddleworth and Auburn District Council which was formed on 25 June, 1970.

The area was one of several favourably reported on by Edward Eyre, explorer, in 1839. Pastoral leases were taken up shortly afterwards, the area being 90 km. north of Adelaide. The discovery of copper at Kapunda (1842) and at Burra (1844) resulted in a large increase in traffic from Adelaide to those parts. Wayside stopping places at intervals of about 10 km. were established, Saddleworth being one of them. The name came from the Saddleworth Lodge pastoral station, named after the Yorkshire birthplace of the station’s owner, James Masters.

Local government for the Saddleworth area came as a district council in the 1850s, with a separate Saddleworth district council being created on 7 May, 1868. In 1870 the district’s economy was stimulated by construction of the railway from Gawler to Burra. However, the closure of the Burra mines in 1877, coinciding with failing soil fertility, caused declining prosperity. The Australian Handbook, 1875, described Saddleworth as –

. . a township and railway station on the Gilbert river, 671/2 miles north of Adelaide. It is a money-order office and telegraph station. Magor’s (Railway), Ansell’s (Stuart’s), South’s (Exmouth), are the hotels. Methodist and Baptist chapels, Catholic church, institute, mill, and telegraph station. It is well supplied with tradesmen and artizans of all sorts. It is one of the most fertile districts in South Australia. The surrounding country is principally cultivated for wheat, and much land is under cultivation. Population, town and district, 1,188

The application of superphosphate to farm lands helped to restore profitability. By the turn of the century the town had a public institute with a library and Oldfellows and Rechabites lodges. Saddleworth remained a railhead for the Clare district until 1918. Rural employment lessened, however, through enlargement of holdings and mechanisation. Fruit growing and viticulture declined, the latter not reviving (in the Auburn area), until the 1970s with Quelltaler and Taylors. By 1949 The Australian Blue Book recorded of Saddleworth that –

This district lies to the north of Adelaide and its north-western extremity adjoins the fertile district of Clare.

Wheat and wool growing are the main industries, but many fat lambs are also raised in the area.

The township of Saddleworth (population about 600) is situated about 68 miles from Adelaide. It is a thriving little country town and tis establishments include up-to-date business premises, two hotels and chaff mills.

A good bitumen road connects the district with the Capital.

In later postwar years the flour mill, butter and bacon factory, cheese and milk processing factory and fortnightly market saleyards closed, but Saddleworth remained an important collection centre for cereals and crops. Saddleworth and Auburn councils amalgamated on 5 July, 1970. Two general stores, two hotels, a bakery, banks, machinery and other businesses were located in Saddleworth in the 1990s.

Sheep and lamb grazing predominated (160,000 head, 1992), along with 28,000 tonnes of wheat and 19,000 tonnes of barley in 1992, for the whole of the shire.

Saddleworth’s census populations have been 666 (1911), 565 (1954) and 421 (1911). The Saddleworth and Auburn council area’s population in 1991 was 2,223.

Postcard dated April, 1907.
Postcard dated April, 1907.

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